Hematitie’s defense squashes Pirates

MARQUETTE – It was nothing fancy, just straight ahead ball control combined with a stifling defense.

But it worked perfectly for the Ishpeming High School football team Saturday in a 44-10 romp over Harbor Beach in a Division 7 semifinal game at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

“It was an overall team effort,” said senior quarterback Alex Briones, who ran for three touchdowns and intercepted a pass on defense.

Ishpeming (13-0) will now face Detroit Loyola (13-0), a 52-7 winner over Homer Saturday, at 10 a.m. this coming Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit for a shot at a second straight state championship.

IHS beat Loyola 20-14 last season for the state crown.

Bobby Zhulkie added a pair of TD runs Saturday while a suffocating Hematite defense held the Pirates (11-2) – the defending Division 8 state titlists – to just 36 yards rushing.

Ishpeming got fumble recoveries from senior defensive back Tyrus Millimaki and junior lineman Dan Thornton, twice held the Pirates on fourth down and limited Harbor Beach QB Eli Kraft to but 18 yards rushing on 12 carries.

“We bottled their quarterback up and kept him from getting outside,” IHS senior linebacker Bobby Zhulkie said.

Ishpeming used three down linemen and eight in pass coverage. Kraft often found no one to pass to, completing just two passes – one a 53-yard TD toss to Travis Essenmacher with 3:23 left against some IHS reserves – of more than 20 yards.

Offensively, the Hematites kept pounding the middle. Briones rushed for a team-high 114 yards on 22 bruising carries and scored on runs of four, seven and three yards.

“Our offensive line played tremendously well with some good technique,” said Briones, who also posted a pair of two-point runs and completed 3-of-5 passes for 42 yards and a pick.

“Coming in, we knew we were bigger (than the Pirates) and our offensive line created some holes. We then ran hard.”

Zhulkie punched the ball over twice on runs of one and two yards to help give Ishpeming a 30-3 halftime lead. A running clock was implemented at 6:15 of the third quarter.

Briones’ 4-yard TD gave IHS a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. It came after Pirates’ head coach Troy Schelke gambled on fourth-and-2 on his team’s 39. But a Kraft pass fell incomplete.

Briones’ interception led to Ishpeming’s final score, a 5-yard run by Noah Olgren with Zhulkie providing the lead block. Harbor Beach tried a trick play as tight end Joshua Schelke attempted the pass.

“They ran a reverse. I wasn’t expecting it, but was able to read it,” Briones said. “I ran with (the intended receiver) and was able to get the ball.”